Next stop New Orleans for some much needed rest and relaxation.
Arrived in Memphis at dinnertime. My sales representative, Cathryn Leithead, who covers Mississippi and Alabama for Annieglass sales, picked me up at the airport.
I was crushed to hear most barbeque places are family run and closed on Sundays, but we found one! Hog Heaven was open and ready for business. I had to have the BBQ pork sandwich with slaw (in the sandwich and on the side) and Cathryn had the so-called BBQ salad. It had 3 pounds of BBQ meat with some salad as the garnish. The bill was $12.83.
I noticed several signs for the Bibles for China Thrift Center but since it was Sunday night, I’ll have to wait until next time.
The Other Side Gifts in Senatobia, Mississippi is so named because it’s on the other side of City Drug Store. The owners Lynn and Debbie Barham and their staff (Hey Robin!) could not have been more gracious. As you can see from the pictures, they really know how to make a fantastic Annieglass display. The store has such a fabulous mix of gifts that I had to pick up a few.
I wanted to arrange a special dinner for my hosts Judy and Ray Lyle. Judy introduced Annieglass to Mississippi and Alabama ten years ago and the love-fest still continues. Annieglass National Sales Manager, Roger Fargeon, worries how soon every man, woman and child in both states will soon own a piece of Annieglass, if not already.
I attribute the popularity of Annieglass here to the fact that women love to entertain, they appreciate the handmade quality because they were raised to discern the difference from mass produced goods and the shops are fabulously merchandised with knowledgeable owner/buyers and retail staff. I humbly believe that these three facts, along with a few others too lengthy to go into here, collide to create a special unique situation.
Chef Nick Apostle of Nick’s Restaurant in Jackson , Mississippi and Chef Matthew Kajdan of The Mermaid Cafe in Madison , Mississippi (Nick’s other restaurant) were pressed into service by Nick’s lovely daughter and recent Annieglass bride, Katy Hedglin to prepare a special meal at the lakefront home of the Lyle’s. The menu was prepared in front of us and we got a cooking lesson as well!
- Broiled Ricotta with Mediterranean olives and sun dried tomato relish on toasted ciabatta bread
- Arugula salad with Mediterranean olives, feta cheese and fresh dill served with crusty peasant bread
- Pan roasted salmon with a tomato vinaigrette over sautéed fresh spinach
What a night!
Day 3 finds me in the capital of Mississippi. Jackson is also known as Annieglass Country. As my friend, Donna Russell, former Mrs. America and Annieglass collector told me ” Dahlin’, you ain’t nothin” in Mississippi if you don’t have Annieglass”. That is why I am here! Donna told this to a group of women in Beverly Hills after she queried them where did they buy their Annieglass. The women had never heard of it. Thank you Donna! She picked up three new pieces today and called all her friends to remind them that i was in town. She is a doll.
Today’s Tea Party was held at Batte Furniture to benefit The Mustard Seed, a community for adults with developmental disabilities. First thing the “Seedsters”, as they are known, greeted me with hugs and a gift of their lovely ceramics. Jane, the artist who made it, presented me an olive tray. She even made it to match my dress! I teased them that I may use it as a mold for my next creation!
Mrs. Joy Batte was gracious enough to order more blue hearts as gifts for the Seedsters. She kindly let me give them out with the help of Melinda, the bridal registrar.
Annie Toler came in with her mother and grandmother to pick up her latest piece of Annieglass, an engraved gold Ruffle cake stand. She is adding it to the sauce bowl, heart and two Ruffle chargers that she already owns, all gifts of her grandmother, Sandra Toler. Annie is not yet 2 years old! Her mother Kelly was the lucky winner of the raffle prize, a small heart shaped cake stand. Anyone who wore a hat to the event was qualified to enter.
I was happy to see Maggie Lowery from Lemuria Books come to visit. She is getting married in June and is registered for gold Roman Antique. We have known each other for about 7 years when I joined the Lemuria First Editions Club. I was hooked on Southern literature and had heard about a great bookstore with an odd name. Maggie was so helpful to me on my first visit that I made a point to return to see her every time that I visited, sometimes twice a year. She is my personal reading shopper. Do you know how nice it is to shop in a clothing store and get great service?…they know what you will like and pick it out. Well that is what Maggie does for me, except not with clothes, with books. Some women buy shoes, I buy books. My biggest fear is not having something to read.
Today was a really big day…Two events in one day. The first was at Plum’s/A Gallery in the downtown historic district of Hattiesburg, Mississippi benefiting Homes for Home, a new home for foster children. The reverend in charge grew up in foster care and had a very interesting perspective, particularly during and after high school, and onto college.
A Gallery is housed in a renovated downtown building. Last year Plum’s sold their business to Gail (of A Gallery) and now the two are combined under one roof with paintings, art glass, ceramics, bridal registry, fine china and gifts.
The sky opened up on the way there and rained pretty heavily but that did not stop the dedicated Annieglass collectors. Shirley Glaab brought her mother’s vintage hat covered in lifelike gardenias. It was very touching to witness how much the hat reminded her of her mother. All the stores had vintage hats and photos that brought up memories of the way things used to be when woman wore hats, went to teas and—what I think was cool—drove REALLY big cars!
I thought of my own mother’s penchant for wacky bathing caps—the wilder the better! We could spot her from 500 yards. She pretended that was why she chose the most outrageous, colorful or three-dimensional designs, so we could always find her. My brothers and I pretended we did not know her when she had one on.
A flash flood warning did not stop Cathryn and I from getting to our next stop in Gulfport and Martin Miazza, a family run store started in 1962 by Martin and his wife Dot, now run by their daughter Kennedy. I wish all my customers gave me my own boutique. I was joking around with one customer and said, “I just need a sleeping bag!”
Two years ago, I visited for an event and when I asked what the theme would be; Kennedy pondered a minute and said ” Drinkin’. Yes dahlin’, drinkin’ will be our theme.” I love these people! They also introduced me to the sweetest lump crabmeat I have ever tasted. I set out on an experiment to discover how much could I eat and it lead me to thoughts of the best way to go, if ever I need to know…death by crab is my choice.
Tonight I paced myself and just ate until my stomach began to hurt. Then Mr. Billy, the bartender took care of me, regaling me with wonderful stories of all the beautiful homes I would see in Natchez.
I awoke to the heavenly smell of French toast in my antique bed at The Kate Sheppard House in Mobile, Alabama. I have stayed here before and pitched a hissy fit when I could not stay here last year. The owners grew up in the South and spent ten years living on Maui. I love the way they combine Hawaiian and southern style into a very comfortable home. The house itself is a marvel of period restoration.
The French toast was really some kind of ambrosial cinnamon bun soaked overnight and baked with toasted pecans and cinnamon. I could have eaten the whole thing! The recipe is at www.katesheperdhouse.com. My room had the bathtub TDF (To Die For), the kind you dream about…and in my case, dream in and completely missed my radio interview that morning! My bad.
Off to The Ivy Cottage for a Tea Party benefiting a great charity called Mc Kemie Place (www.housingfirst-al.org) that provides shelter and compassion for homeless women in Mobile. It is the only one of its kind in the city, able to house 25 single women with plans to accommodate up to 40. Terry Grey, owner of Ivy Cottage and fellow Lemuria Bookstore reader and bibliophile, first became aware of the charity through her staff, who cook and volunteer there. Volunteer Suzie Foster and shelter manager Christine Green came to lend a hand at the Ivy Cottage event. Despite a conflict with the Junior Miss luncheon, we did very nicely. I was delighted to have time to shop. I have been enjoying a fuzzy bamboo robe since my last visit to this tempting store. We had a good laugh over my recent travel story in The New York Times and the picture where I am wearing one of the bamboo racer-back nightgowns as a dress, trudging through a rice patty in Bali. It was another purchase from The Ivy Cottage.
I met several brides and their moms as well as a few wedding gift shoppers. Hill Houston and her mother Louise visited and I had to take a picture of Hill’s unusual wedding band that her fiancé designed. I thought it was great looking.
Teatime refreshments included pretty petit fours on my gold Ruffle cake stand—too pretty to eat! And something we never see in Santa Cruz—cheese straws, buttery and spicy at the same time. Delicious ice tea, or as they say here “sweet tea” served with a fresh mint garnish. There are two kinds of tea here in this part of the South, both iced, one is sweet, and I mean sweet or regular with no sugar.
I was taught what a Sip and See is. When a new baby is born, guests are invited over to sip tea and see the new baby. Isn’t that great? You have to say it with a lilting Southern drawl to get it right.
The Ivy Cottage even took the time to gift-wrap the free gift with purchase Ultramarine heart in a clear bag with blue ribbon. Jessica Dudley is shown with hers. Her dress is the exact color of the many azaleas in bloom.
It’s time to talk about what is known as Southern hospitality. Not wanting to use such a cliché let me tell you my experiences with it. People from this region are characterized by having the best manners in the country. They smile when they talk to you, look you in the eye and are unhurried when speaking. They genuinely care about you—whether you are a tourist or a local—you are uniformly treated with concern and respect. I am told that Southerners have a very strong sense of place that gives them a strong sense of being. I agree. The towns and cities are often small; people are friendly and go out of their way to know how you are doing.
I have been taught what a “happy” is. It is when you want to give something to somebody for no special occasion, just to make him or her happy. What a lovely idea! I take it to heart and have started teaching my friends what a “happy” is. It is a great way to show your regard for someone and that you care about them every day, not just on their birthday or holidays.
The ladies here have taught me that I make lots of happys. Everything that I make could be categorized as such, but technically, I would assume it is anything small; votive holders, tiny hearts and bowls, the new Sunflower bowl or small plate, all the smaller shells.
Go out and give a happy today!
On this trip, I have received a number of happys, in the form of a handmade olive tray, cookies, books and a special cooking sauce. All for no reason other than the fact that I am here.
Day 6 & 7
The second storm of this trip hit furiously on the long drive out to Natchez, requiring us to pull over and wait it out for nearly an hour. We found out there had been a tornado that we just missed near Jackson while we driving from Hattiesburg to Gulfport the other day.
I had to wonder why no one was on the road, and then the awful thought occurred, “Tornado! Of course!” Everyone else has the good sense to get off the road. The emergency alert station was of little help calling out a stream of unfamiliar county names that where under flood and tornado watches. Suffice it to say it took many hours to get there but it was well worth it. Natchez was once the home of the largest number of millionaires in the whole United States. The town is chock full of as many architectural styles as there are homes, from resplendent ante bellum plantations to artfully renovated cottages….or not. A bike tour would be the best way to see it, I think.
The town was ready for the spring pilgrimage, a month long house tour of ante bellum homes, timed perfectly with azaleas, camellias and wisteria in full bloom. www.natchezpilgrimage.com It also takes place in the fall. We viewed Rosalie, an antebellum mansion situated on the bluff above the Mississippi River looking towards Louisiana on the other side of the river. Adjacent to it was Fort Rosalie which made Natchez the oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi, even older than New Orleans. It was purchased and restored in 1938 by the Mississippi Daughters of the American Revolution. We met an 11-year-old tour guide by the name of Korey, who really knew her history. Since she did such a great job on her report about Rosalie at school, she was asked to be a guide for a day during Pilgrimage.
The downtown is delightful and H. Hal Garner is a distinguished antique store with a bridal registry department and pretty patio garden. It was my first visit and I am glad that I made time to stick around and enjoy it. I received such a warm welcome; I hope to come back again soon.
I was greeted by manager Nida Lewis and her enthusiastic staff led by Beverly Jenkins, an Annieglass collector. She says she knows there will be Annieglass in heaven. She has 20 gold rimmed chargers and wishes she could get married again so she could get some more. Beverly also told me she has introduced my things “in vitro” to her unborn granddaughter with a baby bear bowl, plate and heart. Is it any wonder this store sells so much? They even asked me to move there, twice.
Stella Sharp, a fine china expert and collector, came to meet me and very graciously says that Annieglass blends classic beauty with modern technology, making it accessible for current lifestyles. She feels that it is the first time it has happened. It is universal. When she showed me a photo of her handsome grandson Scott Hanson, framed next to his choice of crystal, china and Annieglass, I was confused because under his picture it read “King Scott Hanson”. I asked her, “Is his first name King?” she laughed and explained to my uninitiated ears that he was King of the Pilgrimage Pageant for the first two weeks of the event. Next to his picture was the queen and next to that were the current king and queen. Gotta love those queens, they both picked out Annieglass Ruffle gold for their choices. See the pics.
The pageant is evening entertainment about the history of the area highlighted by the crowning of the King and Queen. Quite an eyeful! We were invited to sit in the box of the president of the garden club, Mrs. Luther Stowers, a former pageant queen as well. Her home was open for Pilgrimage and we were intrigued by it, called the Banker’s House, built in 1838, it once had a secret connecting passage to the vault of the bank next door. Bankers were required to live on premises then. It later became a boarding house and Jesse James was a guest. I suppose he was looking for the secret passage.
Mattie Jo Ratcliffe greeted me warmly with great stories. She believes that art is defined by the emotional response it creates in the viewer, if it creates pleasure or joy then it has succeeded. She feels that Annieglass accomplishes that.
She told me that she bought her son’s 25th wedding anniversary gift one year in advance, that was the limited edition solid gold heart made to celebrate the 25th year in business for Annieglass. She said that when her granddaughter, Julia announced her engagement Mattie Jo offered her a gift of wedding silver but she refused, telling her she wanted Annieglass instead. Julia was married at Stanton Hall, one of the most magnificent houses of antebellum America. We were able to peek at it but made our way onto several homes.
All the guides wore hoop skirt costumes during Pilgrimage. Linden, whose lively owner acted as a guide, had beautiful grounds, as did Magnolia, restored and maintained by the National Park Service, surrounded by acres of woodland. Longwood, an octagonal home, with only the first floor finished before the Civil War also called The War of Northern Aggression broke out and the workers scattered back to Philadelphia leaving their tools where they were working. Five stories with 32 rooms crowned by a domed observatory were never finished, just the exterior stands today. It is a marvel of engineering and a pleasure to go inside and see the difference from the finished basement level to the soaring interior, all five stories viewable from the central rotunda.
Next stop New Orleans for some much needed rest and relaxation.
Days 7, 8 and 9
On the drive, I saw some great signs. My favorite was “God wants full custody of YOU, not just every other weekend!” and “Jesus is coming so get busy!”
I almost forgot to mention the well-dressed woman in Natchez who told me in a gracious Southern drawl “I buy Annieglass for ALL my homes.”
We were welcomed with open arms to the home of gifted artist and old friend, Thomas Mann, inventor of Techno-Romantic jewelry (as seen in my store and available online at www.thomasmanndesign.com), sculptor, chef, and indeflagible spirit. Tom took us on a tour of the Lakeview and Gentilly areas and into the Lower Ninth Ward for a look at Make It Right’s efforts at rebuilding, spearheaded by Brad Pitt. I have been to New Orleans once since Katrina hit and was happy to see so much progress at renewing this magical place. However I do plan on sending Brad a referral to the CCA architecture grads for future projects www.cca.edu/architecture.
A sail on Lake Pontrachain was a treat despite our pathetic attempts to assist our Captain Tom. We are so lame we could not even work the autopilot! The sunset was beautiful- super big and sharp with not a cloud in the sky, so different from the ones we enjoy in the west.
A fine meal of killer barbequed oysters, Tom’s specialty, with seared ahi tuna and grilled vegetables really hit the spot after time on the water. Here is his tasty and simple dessert recipe for BBQ Bananas.
Use under-ripe bananas with the skins on, slit one inch steam vents in 4 places and grill on both sides about 10 minutes or less, until vents get bubbly. Remove from grill, chop off ends, slit skin lengthwise and discard, mash a bit, scatter slivered almonds or nuts with chopped chocolate and a dollop of any flavor ice cream. Yum!
The next day was spent checking out Magazine Street , starting at Tom’s gallery and shop, Gallery IO. As you approach you can hear the tinkling sound of artisans hammering in the upstairs workshop coming through the open windows to the street below. The gallery features Tom’s work as well as the best array of contemporary metal artists working today. He has been a leader in the American Craft movement for nearly 4 decades. His public commissions and sculpture receive national attention. “Storm Cycle”, his show about Hurricane Katrina has been traveling the country. I am working on getting Tom to do a trunk show at my store this summer. The last one 3 years ago was a huge success.
A long walk up and down the street rejuvenated my creativity- seeing so much in one place. I particularly liked a new home furnishings and design store called Perch. I fell in love with a black and white couch that would look fantastic adjacent to my purple velvet one at home. Steve pointed out how the dogs would love it too. I’d take the tree bedpost as well. www.perch-home.com
It was good to see the plethora of new businesses since Katrina that have livened up the street. Nearly all are independently owned. Of particular interest are the quirky vintage shops. I found the glasses my mother used to drink her Manhattans out of. These were in mint condition, unlike my mother’s that had a lot of the gold worn away.
Sucre was recently mentioned in Oprah’s magazine for their pastel colored French macaroons, but I thought the cakes in the window were breathtaking. One had a sweep of white chocolate cascading across 3 tiers. See the other. It is a really pretty bakery. www.shopsucre.com
Tom took us out to Sake Café for super fresh sushi on our last night. Eight great big Chihuly chandeliers decorate the dining room and are reason enough to check it out. www.sakecafe.us
No trip to New Orleans is complete for me without a trip to the French Quarter to Patrick Dunne’s Lucullus. A shop full of culinary antiques unlike any other. Kerry showed us some wonderful cutlery. Holding these beautifully made and well used pieces reassures me that I am on the right path. www.lucullusantiques.com
Papier Plume is a store of stationery, pens, inkwells, wax and seals. It is like going back in time or a quick trip to Florence or Venice to see the luscious handmade papers. www.papierplume.com The owner thanked me for patronizing an independently owned business- I’ll have to use that one myself.
I am very excited to report about my adventures at the Audubon Insectarium in the old Patent building on the corner of Canal and N. Peters streets. You can eat insects as well as look at them at the Bug Appetit I am now an expert on the Formosa termite…but not it’s flavor. My favorite part was the Butterflies in Flight Gallery. It is a Japanese Garden room filled with humidity and hundreds of exotic and beautiful butterflies. You can walk around and see them right in front of you with nothing in between. I saw one great big luminous butterfly with a bold and sheer pattern that could have been designed by Vera Wang instead of Mother Nature. www.auduboninstitute.org
This is the third time I have traveled to Arabella for a trunk show benefiting New Heights Therapy Center. Patrice Senac is a gifted interior designer and merchant. I love her store, her, the products she finds and the way she puts it all together. I always find something to buy there…and I have two stores of my own.
She has a loyal following and strong support from her community. They turned out for some serious shopping last night. I met Maureen and Jessica Larsen, a bride and her mother who came in to pick out some things for Jessica’s wedding in November as well as to get some gifts. Many of the guests present are Annieglass collectors and took advantage of the free personalized engraving we were offering as well as the opportunity to donate to a wonderful charity. New Heights Therapy Center board member,
Jeanne Crotty (a longtime Annieglass collector) came with her friend, Melanie Tanner, who told me she always buys Annieglass for gifts but decided it was time to get herself something. She had it engraved “To me, From me”.